According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were about 2.2 million adults in prisons and jails in the U.S. as of 2018, but more than 4.4 million on probation and probation during that time—double that of the incarcerated population. While the community-supervised population has steadily decreased over the last decade, reaching its lowest level in 2018 since 1998, the numbers are still hefty, with the total probation rate coming in at about 1 in 58 adults in the U.S.
Probation officers serve an important role in our nation’s correctional system. At more than 90,000 strong nationwide, according to the American Probation and Parole Association, community corrections professionals supervise probationers to reduce the incidences of crime and protect the public interest.
But these professionals are far more than just glorified watchdogs for criminal offenders. Their work is focused solely on effecting positive change in offenders and the communities they come from through meaningful support and rehabilitation.
They often come to the job with a law enforcement background, four-year degrees in areas like psychology, criminal justice, corrections, or social work, and many times have had some experience that helped them appreciate the value and long-term societal benefits of community supervision over incarceration. Their skillset is broad, and their knowledge of everything from how the court systems operate to the best ways for parolees to access social services and job training opportunities makes their contributions to both the individual offenders they work with and the communities they serve simply invaluable.
Keep reading to learn more about what today’s probation officers are earning, how to increase your earning potential, and where some of the highest salaries can be found.
Salaries for Federal Probation Officers
Federal probation officers within the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System are federal law enforcement officers and U.S. district court employees who supervise federal offenders that have been granted probation. Qualifications for these jobs are stringent, and training is required, but the salaries and the perks of being a federal employee are impressive.
Like a lot of jobs in federal law enforcement, there are age limits put in place for candidates as a way to make sure new-hires joining the ranks are prepared for the long haul with plenty of in-service years ahead of them. So if you’re over the age of 37, you won’t even be considered for a job with the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System. You’ll also need to hold a bachelor’s degree in an area like criminal justice, criminology, sociology, human relations, or psychology, and you must have at least one year of experience (post-bachelor’s) in a field like parole, corrections, substance/addiction treatment, criminal investigations, or pretrial services.
If you’re qualified and skilled enough to land a federal PO position, you’ll be sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, South Carolina to complete a six-week program through the Federal Probation and Pretrial Services Training Academy. The training academy is where you’ll learn federal probationary protocols and how to perform your job duties, laying the foundation for the on-the-job training you’ll get when you return home to the district you’re assigned to. Academy training involves becoming a firearms and safety instructor in your district, which not only reinforces the firearms skills required for the job, but also comes with the cool perk of being recognized as a qualified instructor.
Your Earning Potential as a Federal Probation Officer
Job posts show that probation officers are paid at the CL25/26 salary range as court personnel – law enforcement officers and at the CL27/28 salary range as court personnel non-law enforcement officers.
Your base salary will differ depending on whether you’re in the “developmental range” (training) or in the “full performance range”:
- CL25: $38,004 – $46,767 (developmental range), $47,529 – $60,864 (full performance range)
- CL26: $41,865 – $51,921 (developmental range), $52,340 – $67,005 (full performance range)
But base pay doesn’t usually reflect the total salary for probation officers, as locality pay can and does often mean higher salaries for those living in urban areas or in areas where the cost of living is generally higher.
For example, work in one of the district courts in Chicago and at the CL25 pay level, you’ll earn between $10,000 and $14,000 more annually than the base pay at the developmental range ($48,859 – $60,628), and between $13,000 and $18,000 more at the full performance range ($61,118 – $78,265). You’ll find the same kind of significant pay bump when serving in other major metro areas around the country.
Further on in your career as a federal probation officer, you’ll find salaries often exceed the CL26 pay level, reaching the CL27 and CL28 levels, which are actually listed on the non-law enforcement officer pay table.
- CL27: $44,164 – $55,204 (developmental range), $55,664 – $71,764 (full performance range)
- CL28: $52,919 – $66,167 (developmental range), $66,719 – $86,039 (full performance range)
Like probation officers at the lower pay levels, those at the CL27 and CL28 pay range may earn significantly more based on locality pay.
For example, a probation officer in Washington D.C. at the CL27/28 level would earn up to $20,000 more than the base salary:
- $57,625 – $72,030 (developmental range) $72,630 – $93,638 (full performance range)
- $69,049 – $86,335 (developmental range) $87,055 – $112,264 (full performance range)
The Benefits You’ll Receive as a Federal Probation Officer
Great benefits are often one of the perks of being a federal employee. As a federal probation officer, you’ll enjoy the following:
- Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)
- Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance (FEDVIP)
- Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)
- Long-term Care Insurance (LTC)
- Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
- Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
- Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA)
You’ll also have a number of Judiciary pre-tax options that allow you to set aside money from your pay, pre-tax, for expenses related to healthcare, dependent care, and more.
The federal government also offers generous leave benefits, employee assistant programs, work/life services, wellness programs, and more.
Salaries for State and Local Probation Officers
Both qualifications and salaries for probation officers working for state and county or municipal jurisdictions can and do vary. But get a four-year degree under your belt in corrections or an area like criminal justice, psychology, social work or counseling, and chances are you won’t just meet qualifications, but actually place among the top candidates in your field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), probation officers earned an average salary of $59,910 as of May 2019. The top 10% in this field – likely those with both a degree and considerable experience in the field – earned more than $94,860 during this time.
Probation officers for state corrections departments earned an average of $59,160, while those at the local level earned slightly more, at $62,160.
Where you live may also affect how much you can expect to earn. According to the BLS, the top-paying states for probation officers included:
- California: $91,760
- New Jersey: $71,420
- New York: $71,280
- Iowa: $69,570
- Massachusetts: $68,460
Recent information from state corrections/judicial departments can provide more insight into what probation officers are earning and what qualifications they need to land the job:
- State probation officers with the Judicial Conference of Indiana must be at least 21 years old, must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and must pass a state exam. Beyond basic qualifications, salaries are based on years of experience here, ranging from $36,344 for new officers to $66,833 for officers with 20+ years of experience. And probation officers with a master’s or doctorate degree in a relevant course of study and who have at least 5 years of experience as an Indiana probation officer earn an additional 5% on top of their base salary.
- State probation officers in the New Mexico Corrections Department need only an associate degree in a field like sociology, psychology, or criminal justice to qualify, although candidates with at least two years of experience in law enforcement, military law enforcement, probation, or a similar field can substitute education requirements for experience. All probation officers must complete a six-week academy course of training. The starting salary here is $41,766.
- State probation officers with the Tennessee Department of Correction must be at least 18 years old and must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. The minimum salary for probation officers here is $28,716. But applicants who also have at least one year of full-time professional experience in probation/parole, counseling, social work, investigative, or legal experience start with a salary of $31,644.
- Probation officers with the Florida Department of Corrections must be at least 19 years old and must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Trainees here are paid $30,434 annually, while certified officers start at $33,478. Probation officers here who work in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, or St. Lucie counties earn an additional $1,700 annually, while those in Palm Beach, Dade, Broward, or Monroe counties earn an additional $2,740 annually.
State-by-State Guide to Probation Officer Salaries Across the United States
Look to the following BLS stats to see what probation officers are earning in your state at the 50th-90th percentile:
- Alabama: $45,150 – $65,900
- Alaska: $65,250 – $90,200 (approximately 340 probation officers)
- Arizona: $53,380 – $75,240 (approximately 2,460 probation officers)
- Arkansas: $37,760 – $48,720 (approximately 890 probation officers)
- California: $91,400 – $127,670 (approximately 13,390 probation officers)
- Florida: $36,750 – $49,990 (approximately 2,150 probation officers)
- Georgia: $43,390 – $58,630 (approximately 2,910 probation officers)
- Idaho: $43,420 – $55,340 (approximately 590 probation officers)
- Illinois: $69,360 – $94,100 (approximately 2,820 probation officers)
- Indiana: $47,000 – $69,120 (approximately 1,810 probation officers)
- Iowa: $70,780 – $91,230 (approximately 830 probation officers)
- Kansas: $44,060 – $58,520 (approximately 740 probation officers)
- Kentucky: $36,990 – $48,240 (approximately 990 probation officers)
- Louisiana: $48,800 – $74,330 (approximately 1,070 probation officers)
- Maine: $49,470 – $57,550 (approximately 280 probation officers)
- Maryland: $58,470 – $76,190 (approximately 1,620 probation officers)
- Massachusetts: $64,470 – $100,920 (approximately 1,140 probation officers)
- Michigan: $69,100 – $69,120 (approximately 2,220 probation officers)
- Minnesota: $68,160 – $94,990 (approximately 1,580 probation officers)
- Mississippi: $36,580 – $44,640 (approximately 560 probation officers)
- Missouri: $37,350 – $44,050 (approximately 2,510 probation officers)
- Montana: $45,710 – $60,300 (approximately 340 probation officers)
- Nebraska: $43,350 – $55,910 (approximately 190 probation officers)
- Nevada: $61,870 – $81,330 (approximately 920 probation officers)
- New Hampshire: $66,130 – $75,970 (approximately 190 probation officers)
- New Jersey: $72,050 – $98,990 (approximately 2,910 probation officers)
- New Mexico: $45,590 – $56,400 (approximately 670 probation officers)
- New York: $71,030 – $97,130 (approximately 4,940 probation officers)
- North Carolina: $43,260 – $53,900 (approximately 3,160 probation officers)
- North Dakota: $58,020 – $80,050 (approximately 230 probation officers)
- Ohio: $50,160 – $69,240 (approximately 3,120 probation officers)
- Oklahoma: $37,900 – $48,880 (approximately 1,020 probation officers)
- Oregon: $59,960 – $80,260 (approximately 1,800 probation officers)
- Pennsylvania: $55,140 – $77,330 (approximately 4,110 probation officers)
- South Carolina: $42,170 – $60,110 (approximately 400 probation officers)
- South Dakota: $47,410 – $60,730 (approximately 350 probation officers)
- Tennessee: $40,860- $56,810 (approximately 2,000 probation officers)
- Texas: $45,160 – $59,530 (approximately 7,960 probation officers)
- Utah: $52,580 – $64,130 (approximately 690 probation officers)
- Vermont: $66,140 – $79,200 (approximately 200 probation officers)
- Virginia: $45,230 – $65,190 (approximately 2,770 probation officers)
- Washington: $62,400 – $78,120 (approximately 2,060 probation officers)
- West Virginia: $40,410 – $59,330 (approximately 650 probation officers)
- Wisconsin: $48,330 – $58,200
- Wyoming: $48,220 – $58,720 (approximately 160 probation officers)
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which probation officers work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
All salary and employment data accessed September 2020.